The Brian Rizzi Endowed Scholarship: How One KCAD Professor Helps Keep the Student Pipeline Open

Posted March 22, 2023 in Giving, Faculty, Scholarship

If you’re lucky in your college career, you’ll find a handful of professors who want to give you their all. Their knowledge. Their experience. And in the case of KCAD Product Design Professor Phil Renato, the financial support to study what you love.

For nearly two decades, Phil Renato has been investing back into the next generation of artists learning at KCAD. In 2005, he created a scholarship in honor of his brother Brian, who died of cancer when they were teenagers. “He was a very athletic person and probably would have gone to a school with a sports team instead of a place like KCAD,” he says. “But his dying kind of focused me in a way, and it wasn’t until then that I became somewhat studious and got my act together.”

Headshot of KCAD Product Design Professor Phil Renato. The person is wearing a grey shirt and slightly smiling with a large window in the background. .Phil Renato, KCAD Product Design Professor.

After earning an MFA at the University of Washington and starting his teaching career at KCAD, Renato realized he wanted to support more young students, so together with his mother and stepfather, Marietta and Larry Harbert, he established the Brian Rizzi Endowed Scholarship. Since its founding, the award has funded a total of 16 scholarships and counting—often supporting the students Renato mentored in his own courses.

While the award was originally focused on KCAD students enrolled in the Metals and Jewelry or Product Design program, Renato has since broadened it to all KCAD students, with a preference for those with financial need.

KCAD Product Design Professor Phil Renato talking with prospective students in the KCAD Flex Lab.Renato (right) connecting with prospective students in the Flex Lab during the 2022 Fall Open House.

“By being more open-ended with the requirements, we can help more people, and that’s my real goal,” he says. The award is also renewable as long as recipients continue to meet the criteria.

In addition to the Brian Rizzi Scholarship, Renato and his wife, Liz have also supported the Oliver H. Evans Endowed Award, KCAD General Endowed Scholarship, the Ferris State University Student Hardship Fund, The Ferris Foundation Opportunity Endowed Scholarship.

“I got similar scholarships as a student, and being able to give others the same kind of opportunities I had as student is important to me. It’s nice to feel we are helping out, especially since college has gotten so much more expensive in my lifetime,” he says.

Three people smiling and standing behind a table with computers and giveaways. Renato (right) representing KCAD alongside Product Design student Caleb Voisine-Addis (center) and
Product Design Professor Jon Moroney (left) at the 2022 Confluence Festival.

For Renato, giving back to his employer is a vote of confidence for KCAD.  “I believe in the mission of higher ed, and I believe in what we are doing with it at KCAD,” he says. “The people who benefit from these donations are not the college, administration, or trustees, but the students—the people we came here for! The way I see it, when you work for a non-profit like we do, if you can give something, you should give something.”


Join us in creating transformative opportunities for the designers and artists of tomorrow with a gift to the KCAD General Scholarship Endowment. Right now, all gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar through the Ferris Futures Scholarship Fund, which means that no matter the size, your gift will make an enormous difference. Learn more and give today at

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